Terrorists set Tuesday deadline to ransom Philippine journalists

Suspected al-Qaida-linked kidnappers say talks to secure release of ABS-CBN anchor and cameraman will be called off if $337,000 doesn't arrive by noon Tues.

Abu Sayyaf 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abu Sayyaf 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Suspected al-Qaida-linked terrorists have set a Tuesday deadline for the payment of a ransom for the release of a popular TV news anchor and her cameraman, who were kidnapped in the southern Philippines, a negotiator said. Alvarez Isnaji, the mayor of Sulu province's Indanan township, said suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists phoned him Monday morning and said talks to secure the release of ABS-CBN anchor Ces Drilon would be called off if the ransom is not paid before Tuesday afternoon. Isnaji is one of the negotiators in the talks. "They gave me a warning: if the money does not arrive by noon (0400 GMT) Tuesday ... there will be no more negotiation," he told reporters in a briefing broadcast by Manila radio stations from southern Jolo island. Isnaji earlier said the abductors demanded 20 million pesos ($450,000) in ransom. But he put the amount at 15 million pesos ($337,000) Monday. He said he also spoke to a tearful Drilon who told him, "Mayor, I want to get out of here." Isnaji said the kidnappers told him that Drilon's family agreed to pay the ransom, but that Drilon told him she only agreed to have her family talk to them because they were pointing a gun at her. Drilon told Isnaji that her family had no money to pay the ransom, he said. Isnaji said he plans to send an emissary to the abductors. He has not met face-to-face with the kidnappers. ABS-CBN, the country's largest television network, said Monday it was doing everything it could to help Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and their families through their ordeal, but that the company would not give in to the kidnappers' demands. "ABS-CBN will abide by its policy not to pay ransom because this would embolden kidnap for ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk," the TV station said in an e-mailed statement. Drilon, her two cameramen and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo were abducted June 8 on Jolo by gunmen believed to be led by Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad and Gaifur Jumdail, who belongs to another armed group, said Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, the regional police chief. The US lists the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group for bombings, beheadings and abductions. Angelo Valderama, one of two cameramen snatched, was released Thursday. Isnaji said Valderama was freed after the kidnappers were paid a "minimal amount" for the hostages' food expenses.